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Kia Makarechi


'Battleship' And Our American Comfort With War Games

Posted: 05/18/2012 2:40 pm

battleship rihanna

This year's summer movie season seems especially ... virile. From "Avengers" to "Battleship," Hollywood is administering a heavy dose of good guys giving their less-good counterparts what they deserve.

There's no doubt that these films, with their "so bad it's good" jokes and loud, ever-expanding action sequences, are massively entertaining. There's a reason "Marvel's The Avengers" has dialed up more than $1 billion in ticket sales: Action is great. And when it involves very little sex and profanity, it's fun for the whole family.

But there's a strikingly unsubtle undercurrent in this year's films. "Battleship" is an unapologetic a celebration of American triumphalism, which makes for great fun because the enemy is no longer Russian, Japanese or Arab. It's over-CGI'd aliens with goatees that appear to be combed through with a tube of Ice Spiker.

There's a similar theme in "Avengers," where a team of mostly, but not exclusively, American heroes convene to save New York from certain extinction at the hand of a longhaired maniac who rings up an army of extra-terrestrials to wreak havoc on the tiny island metropolis.

In each case, there is a wonderfully uncomplicated sense of victory. I had a wonderful time watching "Battleship," as did many of my colleagues in the media. Watching our military flex its muscles ("Battleship" even features a handful of veterans -- of multiple generations -- doing their thing) and so fantastically dominate any threat is fun, because it's familiar.

But what's the consequence of so eagerly cheering on our men and machines in fictional battles? Put another way, with the Pentagon collaborating on so many of these films, just how unrealistic are those feelings?

Not very. By celebrating these (admittedly "badass") victories over and over in the movies, we grow increasingly comfortable with watching American troops and instruments of war beat up on fictional enemies.

But in reality, one side of that equation is still there. So when we end up viewing and considering war, we consider that same military, those same impressive planes and ships, fighting a real life battle that can seem the same from our living room TVs as it did on an IMAX screen. Troops remain troops, aliens are replaced with persons of whatever ethnicity we're currently sitting across from on the moral see-saw.

A "Battleship" producer recently claimed that alien enemies allow the film to avoid "political hurdles about having the U.S. Navy portrayed as fighting another modern navy." That statement can be true only in a society where war itself is no longer politically controversial.

After all, even the word "alien" has a political application -- it's commonly used to denote foreigners we deem as undesirable.

Of course, humans can generally tell the difference between aliens and foreigners. But feelings, and memories of them, are harder to distinguish. A quick glance at Twitter after Obama announced Osama bin Laden's assassination would have revealed reactions that, though deeper and more meaningful, are not unlike the shouts of relief and laughter heard when Rihanna yells "Mahalo Motherf---er" while firing at an alien ship.

But don't take my word for it. This is how the aforementioned producer described the Navy's involvement with the film: "We made this movie because we wanted to showcase the modern Navy, which is a Navy that has not been seen in a film before. The real people on the ships, you can't take your eyes off of them, and these enormous ships just look so cinematic on the open ocean."

It's slightly troubling when the first word that comes to mind when describing warships is "cinematic."

Regardless, the Navy is now touting its involvement in the picture as part of its recruitment efforts.

Another extremely convenient aspect of movies is recovery time. In "The Avengers," more destruction is wrought on New York (presumably both in terms of property and people) than during the attacks on September 11. In "Battleship," there's quick mention of 25,000 people dying in a single attack on Hong Kong. And yet, an hour later in audience time (and not much more in the movie universe's time), we're laughing along with Liam Neeson and the guy from "Friday Night Lights" at a victory ceremony.

(There are, of course, other problems with these films. The Pentagon seems to have a policy loosely based on the following notion: If it makes America look good and strong, we're in. Which explains how it so happily cooperated with the "Transformers" franchise, despite dialogue exchanges such as "Could it be the Iranians?" / "No, this is way too smart for them." The only reason the Pentagon pulled out of "The Avengers" is because it wasn't sure enough that the United States was directing all of the superheroes' movements.)

No one could reasonably suggest that action movies should dwell on loss of life to any realistic extent. Nor should children be shielded from the overwhelming presence of the military in American life. And with a glance at upcoming releases, from "Prometheus" to "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" and "Transformers 4," it's perhaps clear that this editor's hesitation is not in line with our collective cultural appetite.

But families taking children to summer blockbuster after intergalactic war thriller would do well to end the evening with a conversation about the sacrifices incumbent in such fantastically bright explosions, by the men and women who actually wear the uniforms depicted on screen, by our society at large and, yes, by the real-life aliens who so often constitute our real-world enemies.

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  • Battleship - Official Trailer [HD]

    Subscribe | Facebook | Twitter Enter our Battleship prize pack giveaway here: We're giving away boatloads of swag including Battleship t-shirts, water bottles and hats on Facebook. Just submit your email address, that's it. Don't forget to share - every Facebook friend who enters, earns you 2 bonus entries. Easy entry Battleship In Theatres May 18 Release Date: 18 May 2012 Genre: Action | Sci-Fi Cast: Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsg

  • Battleship Official Trailer #2 - Rihanna Movie (2012) HD

    Watch all BATTLESHIP movieclips: Subscribe to TRAILERS: Battleship Official Trailer #2 - Rihanna Movie (2012) HD A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals. "battleship trailer" "battleship HD" "battleship movie" "Liam Neeson" "Taylor Kitsch" "Alexander Skarsgard" "Brooklyn Decker" "Reila Aphrodite" movieclips movie clips movieclipstrailers movieclipsDOTcom popuptrailer "transformers"

  • Trailer 3 (HD) Battleship is an epic-scale action-adventure that unfolds across the seas, in the skies and over land as our planet fights for survival against a superior force. The film stars Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsg

  • Battleship - Super Bowl Spot (HD) Battleship is an upcoming 2012 epic action-adventure film inspired by Hasbro's popular game "Battleship". Watch Rihanna's first film experience here, become a fan on Facebook (http and follow us on Twitter( for the latest updates. Synopsis: Peter Berg (Hancock) produces and directs Battleship, an epic-scaled action-adventure that unfolds across the seas, in the skies and over land as our planet fights for survival against a superior force. Inspired by Hasbro's classic naval combat game, Battleship stars Taylor Kitsch as Lt. Alex Hopper, a Naval officer assigned to the USS John Paul Jones; Brooklyn Decker as Sam Shane, a physical therapist and Hopper's fianc

  • Battleship - Clip: "Hopper and crew investigate a captured alien" Battleship is an epic-scale action-adventure that unfolds across the seas, in the skies and over land as our planet fights for survival against a superior force. The film stars Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsg

  • Battleship - Official Goldilocks Planet Featurette [HD]

    Subscribe | Facebook | Twitter Release Date: 18 May 2012 Genre: Action | Sci-Fi Cast: Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsg

  • Battleship - Aliens Featurette

    Check out this exclusive featurette on the enemies in the Hasbro game-to-film Battleship. See how the armor is made to create a realistic visual feel as well as how the aliens motions are captured on camera. Release Date: May 18, 2012 Genre: Action Other Genres: Sci-Fi, War Studio: Universal Pictures Production Company: Hasbro Language: English Head over to IGN for more: Subscribe to IGN's channel for reviews, news, and all things

  • Rihanna - Battleship: Getting In Character

    Music video by Rihanna performing Battleship: Getting In Character. (C) 2012 Universal Pictures

  • Electronic Talking Battleship Commercial - 1993

    Where are these kids initially running from to play this game? -- From a personal VHS tape.

  • Interview : Rihanna Talks About 'Battleship' & Especially Her Character Cora Raikes

    Official Movie Site - Like It on Facebook - Follow on Twitter - :Check the release dates for Battleship Belgium 11 April 2012 France 11 April 2012 UK 11 April 2012 Germany 12 April 2012 Hong Kong 12 April 2012 Finland 13 April 2012 Italy 13 April 2012 Spain 13 April 2012 Sweden 13 April 2012 Australia 18 April 2012 New Zealand 18 April 2012 Denmark 19 April 2012 Hungary 19 April 2012 Netherlands 19 April 2012 Portugal 19 April 2012 Russia 19 April 2012 Singapore 19 April 2012 Thailand 19 April 2012 Estonia 20 April 2012 India 20 April 2012 Lithuania 20 April 2012 Norway 20 April 2012 Romania 20 April 2012 Turkey 20 April 2012 Argentina 10 May 2012 Brazil 11 May 2012 Colombia 11 May 2012 Canada 18 May 2012 USA 18 May 2012

  • Rihanna - Battleship: Naval Training

    Music video by Rihanna performing Battleship: Naval Training. (C) 2012 Universal Pictures

  • Rihanna - Battleship: Production Begins

    Music video by Rihanna performing Battleship: Production Begins. (C) 2012 Universal Pictures


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